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Microsoft Office 2000 Developer Strategy

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Microsoft Corporation

June 1998

Introduction

The Office 2000 Developer Strategy white paper describes how Microsoft® Office 2000 Developer fits into Microsoft Corporation's strategy to deliver the benefits of solutions that integrate, customize, and automate Microsoft Office and contribute to achieving a true "digital nervous system."

Executive Summary

Today, information technology is enabling organizations to dramatically reduce cost structures, reengineer business processes, and expand product and service offerings to their business partners and customers directly over the Internet. Companies that have harnessed technology to provide these competitive advantages have a digital nervous system, which relies on connected PCs and integrated software to make information flow rapidly and arrive accurately. A digital nervous system helps employees react faster and make more informed decisions. A successful digital nervous system helps close the gap between the corporation, its customers, and its business partners to allow organizations to focus on business, not technology.

Productivity tools and developer tools are two key building blocks of a digital nervous system. Productivity tools, such as word processors, spreadsheets and presentation graphics programs, enable customers to gather data, analyze information to draw insights, collaborate with others, and integrate the results into the most appropriate format. Ultimately, customers need to communicate these results by publishing them to the appropriate audience. Microsoft Office is the productivity tool of choice for more than 40 million customers. This presence on customers' desktops, combined with Office's central role in the work process, means developers have opportunities to connect their end users to the digital nervous system by creating custom solutions that automate and integrate with Microsoft Office.

Developers access the power and functionality of Microsoft Office through application programmability. For over 10 years, Microsoft has been enhancing the ways developers can automate and customize applications to meet specific needs. With Visual Basic® for Applications (VBA) and the Component Object Model (COM), Microsoft has delivered on its vision of application programmability, which enables developers to build fully customized and integrated solutions on top of shrink-wrapped applications, such as those found in Microsoft Office.

With Office 2000, developers have an even greater opportunity to use Office to create rich, powerful, and custom desktop solutions for their end users. The improved programming model in Office 2000 means developers will have easier access to the Office 2000 functionality. Office 2000 also makes it easier to connect to corporate data and publish to the Web, which means developers will be able to deliver custom solutions that use Office 2000 to help their users gather, analyze, synthesize, and publish information.

To build and deploy these rich, custom desktop solutions quickly and easily, developers will need powerful programming tools designed specifically for building Office solutions. Office 2000 Developer delivers these powerful programming tools. The solutions developers will build with these tools will put information—and the power to turn this information into a competitive advantage—onto users' desktops. Organizations that effectively use technology to give their employees this capability have built a digital nervous system.

Application Programmability

To understand Microsoft's strategy for Office 2000 Developer, it will be helpful to understand the origins and results of Microsoft's overall application programming strategy and the benefits application programmability delivers.

Microsoft's Strategy

Microsoft's application programmability strategy is the result of more than 10 years of research and development targeted at helping developers leverage the rich functionality of shrink-wrapped applications. Eleven years ago, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates first proposed the company's vision for application programmability. The vision called for a common way for applications to make their functionality available to developers and emphasized the need for a common programming language across applications.

The first part of Microsoft's vision was that developers should have programmatic access to every feature the application offers the end user. Furthermore, once the software components are exposed in a standard way across all applications, developers could connect application-level objects, as well as multiple applications, into seamless solutions.

Finally, developers need to be familiar with the language and tools they use to integrate exposed software components to leverage the functionality in their solutions. If developers have to learn a new language and use a different set of tools for each programmable application, they will spend the majority of their time studying syntax and learning new tool interfaces. Consequently, a shared programming language and common development environment are crucial to Microsoft's application programmability strategy.

Microsoft's Pillars of Application Programmability

Microsoft has delivered on its vision for application programmability by establishing the Component Object Model as the standard for exposing application functionality and Visual Basic for Applications to deliver a common programming experience across programmable applications.

COM

Microsoft has made COM the most widely used component software model in the world. It provides the richest set of integrated services, the widest choice of easy-to-use tools, and the largest set of available applications. In addition, it provides the only currently viable market for reusable, off-the-shelf client and server components.

VBA

VBA is the common development language and environment found throughout Microsoft Office and other VBA-enabled third-party applications. By providing a common development language and environment, Microsoft and the independent software vendors (ISVs) who license VBA for their applications enable developers to focus on the functionality of the applications instead of learning a new language for each application they incorporate into their solutions.

Since Microsoft announced licensing of VBA to ISVs in June 1996, over 50 applications have begun shipping with VBA in 23 separate vertical markets. This means companies can connect desktop solutions with every part of their digital nervous system. The increasing number of VBA-enabled applications provide more opportunities for application customization and integration by helping developers use their investments in training and knowledge of the Visual Basic development system. Ultimately, these developer benefits extend to the organizations and customers who select VBA-enabled applications by offering the choice to "buy and customize" over "build from scratch."

Customers running these VBA-enabled solutions have recognized significant returns. For example, CIGNA Property & Casualty's Special Risk Facilities (SRF) organization created an Office 97-based solution to automate its report-generation process. The automated solution reduced report preparation time from days to minutes, giving CIGNA's risk management consultants more time to develop strategies to reduce the risk and costs of workplace injuries. This time saving was possible because CIGNA's developers took advantage of the exposed components in Office 97 to create a custom solution that increases the efficiency of its risk analysis service and saves an estimated 20,000 personnel hours a year.

Benefits of Application Programmability

Application programmability means developers can be more efficient while building solutions that their customers can learn with less effort and that are tailored to fit the business. For MIS and business managers, programmability means solutions that they can develop quickly and that are easy to use and deploy. In the context of two-year backlogs for new applications and high end-user training costs, these solutions provide a tremendous business benefit in terms of return on investment (ROI) and timeliness.

  • Faster development cycles through object reuse. Because programmable applications expose their functionality as reusable objects, developers can leverage existing functionality rather than create it from scratch. By reusing objects from programmable applications, developers can build more powerful solutions and write less code. Less code means more productive developers and faster development cycles. In the context of rapidly changing business requirements, faster development cycles and increased programmer productivity can create a significant competitive advantage.
  • Lower training costs and greater end-user productivity from familiar user interfaces. The benefits of programmable applications also enrich the organization through greater end-user productivity. Application programmability enables custom solutions to employ functionality with which users are already comfortable and productive. Consequently, end users can leverage their training with the programmable applications to get up to speed more quickly. In a sense, custom solutions built with programmable applications inherit end-user skills.
  • Greater value from desktop application investment through customization. Programmable applications mean developers can customize off-the-shelf productivity applications to meet specific business needs. By automating processes, extending the application's existing functionality, or tailoring the application interface to a set of users' specific needs, developers can create custom versions of the programmable applications that are infinitely more valuable than the original applications were out of the box.

The Digital Nervous System

To survive in today's competitive and ever-changing world, it is essential that organizations be prepared for technological advances and the evolution to a digital economy. As more companies move to a digital work style, the need to share information and knowledge across the enterprise increases. The expansion of access to internal corporate networks and the Internet is critical to making this transition possible and successful.

The most successful companies will be those with fast access to information and the ability to process that information and develop strategies to adapt quickly to change, planned and unplanned. Technology plays a major role in attaining these goals. The digital nervous system is Microsoft's vision for enabling technology to have an even greater impact on a company's business processes in a digital economy. Information flows more fluidly in a digital nervous system, enabling organizations to run more effectively and to act, react, and adapt more quickly—all crucial factors in a company's ability to compete in a global environment.

Office: The Entry Point to the Digital Nervous System

The knowledge worker in a digital nervous system needs to gather data and information; analyze the data to generate insights, collaborate with others, synthesize the insights into the most meaningful form; and, finally, publish content to the appropriate audiences, through a variety of media (print, e-mail, fax, Internet, and so on). In a true digital nervous system, gathering, analyzing, synthesizing, and publishing are connected in a single stream of productivity. Desktop productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office, play a key role because these applications are located at the crossroads of the digital nervous system, where knowledge workers transform data into information.

  • Gather data and information. Efficient knowledge management and access to critical information are vital to the success of a company's digital nervous system. Users gather data from a variety of systems—sales results from the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, expense totals from the accounting system, or customer contact information from the customer database. All too frequently, information resides in a variety of formats and systems as islands of data that must be bridged, or integrated, to complete a particular business process. By combining the ease of use of Office with direct connections to corporate data stores, Office 2000 places the ability to access corporate information in the hands of the business decision-makers without costly IS involvement. As the most familiar desktop suite, Office is the optimal client for accessing enterprise data.
  • Analyze data to generate insights. Data is only useful in the context of drawing insights. With access to more data, users need powerful tools to perform their analysis. Office 2000 provides a powerful set of tools, such as Microsoft Access and Microsoft Excel, for users to break down data and organize it so the meaning and trends behind the data are clear. With their ease of use and powerful functionality, these applications provide users with the tools they need to generate informative and insightful content.
  • Synthesize into the most appropriate form. Once users have generated their insights, they need to pull them together. Today's users expect to integrate graphics with text and charts. They are used to including graphs alongside the rows of sophisticated calculated values the graphs represent. The container for these insights can be a word processing document, spreadsheet, e-mail message or presentation. If the applications work well together, users will be able to assemble their insights in the most appropriate form. In addition, collaboration is an essential part of any content creation process. Documents and presentations are shared for comment and editing in an iterative process, with multiple knowledge workers participating in content production.
  • Publish insights. Sharing insights used to mean printing on and then distributing paper. Today, users have many more choices for how they publish their findings: the Web, corporate intranets, e-mail, and presentations, as well as print.

    Choosing the medium in which to publish should be a question of what is most effective, not what is least difficult. In other words, publishing to the Web should be as easy as saving a file or printing hard copies for distribution. The task of converting a document to HTML and posting to an intranet is often assigned to a specially trained webmaster. The webmaster acts as the conduit through which all Web documents must pass, which can lead to a bottleneck in getting information out to customers and coworkers. The bottleneck results in ineffective, out-of-date Web pages that combine to form a "dead Web." Office 2000 addresses the dead Web problem by making it easier for all users to convert files created in Word, Excel, Access, and the Microsoft PowerPoint® presentation graphics program into HTML to publish their insights through the Web.

    Over 40 million people use the Microsoft Office suite of productivity tools, which makes its set of productivity applications nearly ubiquitous on the desktop. This presence, combined with its position at the crossroads of the digital nervous system, makes Microsoft Office the ideal platform on which to build custom solutions that empower customers to gather data and information, analyze the data to generate insights, synthesize the insights into the most meaningful form and, finally, share these insights by publishing their findings.

The Office 2000 Solutions Platform

Because Microsoft Office resides at the crossroads of the digital nervous system, developers have recognized the opportunity to improve customers' ability to gather, analyze, synthesize, and publish through customizing, automating, and integrating Office in their solutions. Office 2000 makes the Office solutions platform even more compelling through an improved programming model, better connectivity to data, and easier publishing to the Web.

Improved Programming Model

Microsoft is committed to helping developers customize, automate, and integrate by building object models around the software it ships. Microsoft has provided developers with a rich set of application functionality to customize, automate, and integrate since it first introduced the Office suite in 1990. As Microsoft has added new features to Office (for example, access to data stores and the ability to create rich content for the Web), it has enhanced the object models to provide access to these features and application functionality.

Office 2000 provides the most compelling evidence so far of Microsoft's commitment to making Office a powerful solutions platform. In Office 2000, Microsoft exposes over 600 programmable objects to developers through COM; these objects represent millions of lines of code written and tested by Microsoft developers.

In addition, the add-in architecture enhancements provide developers with a unified COM-based architecture for creating a single add-in that adds functionality to all of the Office 2000 applications. By providing developers with a unified, COM-based, add-in architecture, developers can create a single add-in that will add functionality to all of the Office 2000 host applications.

In addition to exposing its applications' functionality, Office 2000 takes programmability a step further with discrete programmable objects in the form of Office Web components. These components are ActiveX® Controls that deliver a subset of the rich functionality of the Excel Spreadsheet, Chart and PivotTable® dynamic views features. With these smaller, single-purpose building blocks, developers can build solutions that integrate powerful functionality without having to run the entire Excel application. Because these building blocks are ActiveX components, developers can host the functionality in custom solutions (Visual Basic forms, Office documents) as well as in the browser.

As always, Microsoft has also provided a common integrated development environment for developers to automate the Office functionality. Because VBA is found throughout Microsoft Office and third-party applications, developers can create solutions that integrate multiple applications throughout the entire line of business.

Easier Data Connectivity

Connectivity to business-critical data is essential for organizations, and information technology (IT) professionals want to provide easier, more timely access to information for their users. Historically, it has been challenging for anyone other than database administrators or IT professionals to access data from an enterprise-level database. With Office 2000, Microsoft has made it easier for users to access the data they need, no matter where it lives.

Office 2000 provides tighter integration with Microsoft SQL Server™ by enabling direct access to Microsoft SQL Server databases from Access 2000. This enables to users combine the rich form and reporting tools in Access with the power and scalability of Microsoft SQL Server.

Office 2000 also provides support for Decision Support Services, a new online analytical processing (OLAP) capability in Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 that allows users to perform sophisticated analysis on large volumes of data. Office 2000 works tightly with SQL Server-based data marts and warehouses, which means a broader audience of users will be able to analyze important corporate information.

Seamless Web Publishing

Office 2000 offers a new Web-productivity work style that integrates core productivity tools with the Web to streamline the process of sharing information. Users will be able to create and share rich Web documents with the same Office tools they use to create printed documents. For developers, this creates an opportunity to develop custom solutions built on Office. With these custom solutions, users will be able to produce Web-ready content more easily and consistently. Solutions built with Office ensure that data integrated into the end user document is accurate and that content published to the Web is customer-ready.

Office 2000 enables anyone with a browser to view Office-created content by delivering on two critical goals. First, Office 2000 makes HTML document creation simple by building it into the standard "document open" and "save" practices with which most users are familiar. Second, Office 2000 creates HTML documents with high fidelity, enabling the same viewing experience for the browser user as for the Office user who created the document.

Data Access Pages combine the ease of use of the popular Access Forms and Reports with a Web-based environment. Through Data Access Pages, developers will be able to create Web pages that deliver live, dynamic data access to their users. Unlike traditional Access Forms and Reports, Data Access Pages are stored as HTML files outside the Microsoft Access *.mdb file. This enables users to send Data Access Pages through e-mail or post them on the Web as static HTML pages.

Office 2000 includes three Office Web components—Spreadsheet, Chart, and PivotTable—which make corporate data available through a browser. Each of the Web components gives developers the opportunity to integrate powerful Office functionality into the solutions they distribute through the Web. The Spreadsheet component provides basic spreadsheet functionality in the browser, enabling users to enter text and numbers, create formulas, recalculate, sort, filter, and perform basic formatting. The Chart component provides interactivity and automatic updates as the underlying data changes. The PivotTable dynamic views component lets users browse report data, dynamically sort and filter it, group it by rows or columns, create totals, and focus on the details behind the totals.

Office 2000 Developer

Microsoft Office's presence on over 40 million desktops and central position in the digital nervous system has attracted more than 2.6 million developers to build custom solutions on the Office platform. Office 2000, with its improved programming model, data connectivity, and easier Web integration, will make the community of developers targeting the Office solutions platform even larger. As more users and business decision-makers realize the benefits of custom Office solutions, Office developers should receive more requests to customize, automate, and integrate Office. Microsoft is committed to making sure developers have the tools they need to deliver the Office solutions their users want. Office 2000 Developer is designed to supply the tools that serious developers will need to build the most powerful and effective Office solutions.

Powerful Tools for Serious Developers

Developers require the same level of power and performance when building solutions with desktop applications that they have in leading development tools, including the programming language, the editor used to write code, the debugger used to find bugs, extensibility features such as ActiveX Controls and reusable code object, and dialog box creation and management tools. Office 2000 comes with these development tools in the VBA development environment.

In addition to being the most complete version of the Office 2000 productivity application suites, Office 2000 Developer provides the productivity tools professional developers need to build solutions faster, integration tools to make their solutions work seamlessly with data and the Web, and management tools to simplify deploying and managing the solutions they build with Microsoft Office.

Build Solutions Faster

Office 2000 Developer includes enhanced productivity tools and documentation to make developers more productive; these tools work from any VBA-based host (Office and third-party applications):

  • COM Add-In Designer allows developers to create and debug stand-alone VBA COM add-ins (DLLs) without leaving the VBA development environment.
  • VBA productivity tools include add-ins like the Code Librarian, which provides a searchable database that makes it easy for development teams to share a wide range of reusable code. It also includes add-ins to automate code documentation, error-handling routines, and automatic string parsing, as well as other tools for enhancing productivity.
  • Learning materials and programming resources include the MSDN™ Library, hard-copy documentation and prewritten code for standard routines for VBA, and the Visual Studio® development system.
  • Visual Studio templates and code samples are used for building COM add-ins and automating Microsoft Office externally.

Integrate Organizational Data

Office 2000 Developer delivers tools and components that make it easy to integrate data into Office solutions and publish to the Web:

  • Data Environment Designer allows developers to easily connect VBA code to external data sources by creating databound forms and controls through a visual user interface.
  • Data Report Designer enables developers to quickly build sophisticated printed reports by dragging elements from the Data Environment without writing any code.
  • Data Bound Controls make it easy for developers to create intuitive interfaces quickly. The Enhanced FlexGrid control displays hierarchical data in an intuitive format, while the Data Repeater control provides an interface to repeat ActiveX controls to form an easily scrollable set of records.

Simplify Deploying and Managing Solutions

Office 2000 Developer provides the necessary tools for easily deploying and managing solutions built with Microsoft Office.

  • Microsoft Access run-time gives developers the ability to redistribute Microsoft Access solutions without requiring Access on the desktop with this royalty-free run-time edition.
  • Package and Deployment Wizard helps developers package applications for installation and deployment. The Package and Deployment Wizard guides developers through the steps of identifying dependency files for redistribution of solutions built with Office on any media as well as to the Web.

Developer Community and Support

One of the most important criteria for IT managers in deciding which application development tools to invest in is the size of the developer resource pool and the availability of training and support. An organization should select a tool that has an established base of talented developers to draw from, leading-edge developer support, a wide variety of certified solution providers, and readily available training. In today's climate of reduced investment in new application development, focus on year 2000 issues, and demand for shorter development cycles, IT managers can benefit from the more than 2.6 million developers who build solutions with Microsoft Office today. In turn, these developers can draw from the enormous third-party community, which generates books, magazines, tools, and conferences that focus on solution development with Microsoft Office and VBA.

The Microsoft Developer Network

The Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) is Microsoft's premier program for developers and is the largest developer community in the world. MSDN includes free access to the most popular developer site on the Web at http://msdn.microsoft.com/ (connect-time charges may apply). This large community of developers enables organizations to tap into a shared knowledge base provided not only by Microsoft but also by the developer community itself. As part of this leading developer resource on the Web, Microsoft provides extensive articles, training, documentation and industry events. In addition, the Office Developer Forum at http://www.microsoft.com/office/developer/ provides up-to-date information on building solutions with Office, including "how-to" features, technical articles, and case studies.

Developer Support

Microsoft offers several levels of support, including Premier account support that includes access 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a dedicated technical account manager. Direct phone support, as well as leading-edge Web support, is available. Visit http://www.microsoft.com/support/ for more information.

Certified Solution Providers

The Microsoft Certified Partner (MCP) program includes over 13,000 organizations worldwide. The MCP program is regarded as the industry's quintessential channel program. Visit http://www.microsoft.com/certpartner/ to find out more about the MCP program, including instant access to a directory of MCP organizations worldwide. This directory includes the largest systems integrators in the world, such as Andersen Consulting, Electronic Data Systems Corp., and Ernst & Young LLP, as well as regional solution providers.

Training

A worldwide Authorized Training and Education Center (ATEC) network backs Microsoft development tools. Visit http://www.microsoft.com/training/ for information on the thousands of ATEC centers that can provide Microsoft-certified developer training. In addition, Microsoft Mastering Series is a series of computer-based training titles readily available from any software dealer. The Mastering titles offer detailed, step-by-step training on Visual Studio tools. Finally, through Microsoft Press and all other major software book publishers, developers can choose from hundreds of books with in-depth material covering the range of Microsoft development tools and technologies.

Summary

Organizations need the ability to harness information technology to provide a competitive advantage. Microsoft's vision for corporate computing encompasses a corporate digital nervous system to provide a free flow of information that empowers corporations to react faster to changing business needs, make more informed decisions, get closer to customers and business partners, and focus on business, not technology. Common productivity tools for customers and tools for developers are two key building blocks in enabling corporations to achieve a digital nervous system.

Microsoft has made Office 2000 the ideal set of common productivity tools for corporations trying to build a digital nervous system by improving the Office programming model, making it easier for Office users to work with data, and simplifying the process of publishing to the Web. By giving developers access to all of the Office 2000 functionality, Microsoft has created a platform rich in opportunity for developers to customize and automate Office 2000 to deliver rich desktop solutions that integrate seamlessly with the Web.

With Office 2000, customers can now participate in the Web in ways never before possible. As more users and IT managers benefit from the ease of use, speed of development, and quality of solutions built with Microsoft Office, the demand for Office 2000 solutions will continue to grow. Developers will need powerful programming tools to help satisfy the growing demand. Office 2000 Developer delivers the powerful programming tools and information needed for building and managing this new breed of Office and Office Web-based solutions.

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